Jada Pinkett Smith is praising the rise in diversity among this year’s crop of Oscar nominees.
“I feel really fantastic. It’s a beautiful thing to see,” Pinkett Smith, 45, told Variety. “We had a lot of exceptional films this year. I’m glad to see that projects like Hidden Figures, Fences and Moonlight are getting recognition. I’m very proud this morning.”
Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, decried the 2016 Oscar race after non-white actors were shut out of the acting nominees’ list for the second year in a row. A handful of other celebrities spoke out against the controversy, using #OscarsSoWhite to express their shock and outrage.
This year’s nominations were announced on Tuesday and a number of high-profile performances and films featuring actors of color were recognized for top honors, including Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Mahershala Ali and more.
Smith said the record number of black nominees is a “beautiful step” toward a more inclusive Hollywood — and country.
“Because of the state that our country is in, as artists it’s so important we use our platform to help shine light on how we want to be identified as a country,” she said. “I look at this as a beautiful step towards that.”
She continued: “Just our participation as artists in this time of how we want to represent our country, what is the messaging we want the world to see. As artists we have strong voices. We create strong imagery in regards to the identity of our country. It’s important that we take responsibility for that.”
Smith added that the industry still has a great deal of work to do in order to make lasting change.
“I’m very proud to be part of the artistic community today,” she said. “We have a ways to go, but we’ve also come a long way. We’ve come a long way as a country, and we’re going to keep stepping.”
The Oscars will air live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.